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Posted on Tuesday 9th April

One of the twentieth century's most influential politicians, Margaret Thatcher, passed away yesterday, 8 April 2013, following a stroke.

Thatcher, a grocer's daughter, was born in Grantham in 1925. She went on to study chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford where she became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

She first stood for Parliament, unsuccessfully, in the 1950 election, as the youngest ever Conservative candidate. She married Denis in 1951, and qualified as a barrister two years later. It wasn't until the 1959 general election that she entered Parliament in the safe Conservative seat of Finchley.

Within a few years she had become a junior minister, before being promoted to shadow cabinet, and then joined the cabinet as education secretary with Ted Heath's government in 1970. Tasked with implementing spending cuts in her department led to the withdrawal of universal free milk in schools, earning her the nickname 'milk snatcher'.

Following the collapse of Heath's government in 1974, Thatcher stood against him for Tory leadership and became leader of the party in 1975. When the Callaghan Labour government folded in 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the UK's first female Prime Minister at the general election. In that role, she was determined to repair the country's finances by reducing the role of the state and boosting the free market.

Thatcher remained in Downing Street for 11 years during which time she implemented a radical budget of tax and spending cuts, enabled millions to purchase a stake in the economy by enabling them to buy their council homes and shares in previously state-owned companies. Business enterprise was largely encouraged, and steps were taken to curb the power of trade unions.

Victory in the Falklands War of 1982 gave Thatcher a popularity boost and saw a landslide Conservative victory in the 1983 election. The following year, under the leadership of Arthur Scargill, the National Union of Mineworkers called a general strike which lasted a year amid violent clashes between police and strikers, and hastened the decline of the coal industry in areas such as South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East. Peace talks in Northern Ireland were largely unsuccessful, and she was the target of an IRA bombing in Brighton in 1984 but escaped unharmed.

She won a third term at the 1987 general election, during which she introduced the community charge (poll tax) which sparked violent riots. Her opposition to the European Community outraged her colleagues and led to her downfall. She resigned as Prime Minister in 1990 and was succeeded by John Major, before standing down as an MP in 1992.

She was awarded a peerage in 1995 and became Baroness Thatcher. Few politicians have sparked such strength of feeling. In a magazine interview in 1987, she said:

'It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.'

She firmly believed that deeply held convictions should never be compromised by consensus, which was a great strength as well as possibly her biggest weakness.

Baroness Thatcher's funeral will be held on Wednesday, 17 April at St Paul's Cathedral.

Further Reading

The 1984/85 Miners Strike in Nottinghamshire

Only £12.99

The 1984/85 Miners Strike in Nottinghamshire

(Paperback - 176 pages)
by Jonathan Symcox

John Lowe was at the forefront of the fight for jobs during the twelve months of the miners' strike from 1984-5 as the elected chairman of Clipstone Colliery's strike committee in the largely working county of Nottinghamshire. The dirty war fought by the Thatcher Government to defeat the formidable National Union of Mineworkers transformed him from passive family man into political animal: witness to many disturbing events, he recorded his experiences in a diary so… Read more...


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